or nuthin'.

A running refrain with me is games don't need to be gritty or photorealistic to be fun. Sure, I could invest in actual firearms, and I'm actually a pretty decent shot with a compound bow last I tried, but running around and shooting people with actual weapons is illegal in most states. Paintball and Airsoft are a bit more legal, but still require some decent funding and more or less official ranges. Good old foam darts have no such constraints, and if you're a half-way decent engineer (and I am), you can even improve on the Hasbro designs, at very least removing the built-in restraints. Hardcore NERF modders can actually get better ranges by filing their darts with brass weights. Think about that for a minute.

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the Eliminator
Also available as the N-Strike Reflex IX-1, I beieve the Eliminator sets the record for Nerf power-to-weight ratio. The gun is tiny, just large enough to fit the firing mechanism and provide a functional grip, and yet depending on your model, sports either a secondary dart storage slot or a keychain hook and N-Strike expansion rail. The gun is a single-shot reverse-piston, but the innards are so minimalist that the usual improvements are largely taken care of out of the box. If you do break the case open (and you do need to break the case open), some simple (if risky) tweaks can put the Elim into range contention with stock guns more than twice its size.

the Tech Target Gun
Only available in the single-player Tech Target set, the TTG is a sleek, straightforward single-shot forward-plunger. This means easy modding for profound results. Clear the airway, add a little sealant, and it's easily the best range in my arsenal for now (no promises once I get my BBB microdart-worthy). True, it's much pricier to acquire than the Nitefinder, but I much prefer the aesthetic, and don't need the exra bulk of the light system.

May 27, 2009 the Maverick
Commonly quoted as the basic infantry sidearm of the N-Strike generation, the Mav has its perks to be sure- 6 darts that don't fall out, housed in a reasonably compact shell, with a fast cocking mechanism and an expansion clip. However, given that all of these features have been iterated on, I'd hesitate to recommend the Mav to anyone with a decent budget who doesn't explicitly want a Mav. Certain aspects are a pain to mod, some of my mods didn't particularly work, and even stock, the thing has a nasty habit of jamming or misfiring.

May 27, 2009 the Dart Tag Blaster
My first mod, my favorite gun. The DTG improves on virtually everything that draws people to the popular Maverick pistol. 10 darts in an easy-access barrel, a double-grip when you need stability, a protruding ridge on the upper bolt for faster cocking, better stock range, easier modding, and in spite of the fact that it's not technically a N-Strike weapon, they even added the N-Strike expansion clip. And modding doesn't even require cutting/breaking/forcing anything open. The only downside is it's only available in pairs and with a bunch of accessories you don't need. At least they recently decided to pack a couple Eliminators in newer boxes.